Lauren Silverman, writing for the National Geographic, has written a very in depth article, about Ant Keeping, the unlikely rise of the hobby, which was brought into the mainstream by Uncle Milton's Ant Farms, the first commercially produced & sold world wide, Ant Formicaria in the late 50's early 60's, In the US these Formicaria were sold with Pogonomyrmex a North American, harvester Ant species, when it reached the EU, they were sold with Messor Barbarus, the European harvester Ant, both species remain to be some of the most popular kept, ant species in their regions.
Certainly the hobby has evolved, it would be unrecognisable to our forebearers, with the choices in formicaria alone, not to mention the growth of the hobby worldwide, aided by the age of technology, the internet, as part of the generation that kept Ants prior to the internet boom, NTL made the internet more accessible for the UK, in the year 2000, with the launch of broadband, dial up was a poor excuse for internet, it would take hours to load a simple Jpeg file.
At that point not much existed in the web, regarding the hobby of ant keeping, really I would say it wasn't until the launch of Facebook in 2004, to put it in perspective, my early years as an Ant keeper came to an end, around 2005.
Fast forward to 2021, we have hundreds of Facebook hobby groups with thousands of members, communities across other platforms, Discord, Reddit, Instagram & the latest craze on TikTok.
Information & knowledge on the hobby is now readily available, youtubers such as Ants Canada & Ants Australia, paved the way for millions into the hobby. I would attribute the internet & technology, to being the biggest catalyst, taking this hobby, from a kid like myself keeping Ants in dirt jars & other home made formicaria, fruitless expeditions to the local library in search for knowledge on how to keep Ants, anything I could find, but content was scarce, to having it all at my fingers tips, through my phone or laptop.
The internet totally, changed the face of the world, opened doors, we have never had so much information readily available to us, now a quick google search can connect you to a whole database of scientific and academia, articles on ants, forums filled with Ant Keepers, video content, more than you could find the time to watch it all.
We have been spoilt by some epic documentary's from the legendary likes of Sir David Attenborough, One of my favorite documentaries to come from the BBC was the Empire of the Desert Ants, narrated by Andy Serkis. Follwing a colony of Myrmecocystus (Honeypot Ants) in the deserts of Arizona, USA.
Its moments like these, when our humble hobby is highlighted to the world, that we as keepers, content creators or ant loving community members, we tend to see an influx of newly emerging keepers into the hobby, perhaps sparking an old childhood interest, others a completely new interest, being left in awe from what they have seen or read.
Articles, documentaries, content creators, inspire people to be a part of the hobby, Its been amazing to see this growth, gaining more and more momentum.
The Ant keeping hobby is not like any other hobby that I have ever taken up, it can be an emotional rollercoaster at times, its certainly one of the biggest learning curves, there is so much to get to grips with, from Latin names, to understanding the differences between species, understanding your local laws, Identifying Queens, capturing or purchasing Queens to start a colony, learning how to create a safe and stable environment, it can feel overwhelming.
My advice to new keepers, join Facebook groups or Discord groups, you can find some listed in the "Our Colony" links page, this will link you into one of your biggest resources & support pools, the community as a whole are very welcoming, most go out of their way to help, give advice or make suggestions, its a unique mix and group of people, from all walks of life.
Ants & The Colonialist